Health officials encourage flu vaccine following more deaths fro - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Health officials encourage flu vaccine following more deaths from virus in ETX

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

Local health officials are urging East Texans to get the flu shot, with the peak of flu season just weeks away.

Texas already classified this year’s flu outbreak as “widespread” in December, a month before the typical peak of the season in January or February.

Hundreds of cases have been diagnosed in East Texas, including at least six involving the H1N1 strain of the flu.

The exact breakdown of diagnosed cases is difficult to nail down, but the State is reporting more than 1,000 new cases per week as of the end of December.

In Smith County, ETMC alone reported at least 125 cases of the flu in December, including one confirmed case of H1N1, which is also known as swine flu.

Just Tuesday, Gregg County officials said there have now been five confirmed deaths as a result of the H1N1 strain. Officials said all five cases involved males between the ages of 20 and 40 years old who had not received the flu shot.

In Angelina County, Memorial Hospital in Lufkin has also reported five cases of the H1N1 strain, while Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital in Nacogdoches County has reported that one man in his 50's died from the H1N1 virus.

“Every year they estimate thousands of people die as a result of the flu,” said George Roberts of the Northeast Texas Public Health District. “One thing about the flu this year and the predominant strain being H1N1 is that it typically hits more of a younger population.”

"The number one thing is fighting the infection,” said infection preventionist Barbera Raines. “We have to teach our kids they have to wash their hands all the time. Send alcohol hand sanitizer with them, Kleenex; that is the best way to prevent any spread of infection."

Health officials said this year’s flu vaccine includes three different strains of the H1N1 virus and are urging anybody who has not been vaccinated to do it sooner rather than later, as the peak of the flu season is just around the corner.

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